It turns out that being right is the primary motivating factor in almost anything we do. Here are a few examples:
I was once on a hike up a mountain with some friends. Once we reached the final saddle, I asked one of my friends how long they thought it would take to reach the summit. My friend estimated another hour. I disagreed and said we could probably do it in half the time. Instantly, and unconsciously, I picked up the pace. The leisurely stroll turned into tough work as I tried to summit faster. After a few minutes, my friend told me to slow down. “Stop walking so fast just because you want to be right.”
A friend was telling me about some health problems they were having one time, where they were visiting with doctors to find out what was wrong. My friend had to wear a monitoring device so the doctor could have a better idea of what the problem could have been. I told my friend, “I hope everything is normal and healthy and you don’t have to go back to the doctors again!”
My friend replied, “I don’t, I just want to find out what’s wrong with me.” I was taken aback. My friend would have preferred being right about the belief that there was something wrong with them, than simply just being healthy.
People who fall out with others because their social or political views get challenged. They confuse opinions and viewpoints with facts, and don’t understand or tolerate anyone who may have an alternative view to what they have. They’d rather be right and make others wrong, even if they were initially close friends or family members.
Being right also helps us reinforce anything we believe in ourselves. If we truly believe ourselves as hard-working, intelligent and courageous, we want to make ourselves right about it and do things to confirm those beliefs. On the other hand, if we see ourselves as drug addicts, failures, or unhealthy, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we get a small kick in telling ourselves we were right all along. We’d rather be right than be at peace.
The need to be right comes from a lack of security, and the need to feel good. This is because it feels good to be right and it feels bad to be wrong. But if we are trying to make ourselves feel good at the expense of others’ feelings by making them wrong, it comes from a lack of consciousness. We can often even make ourselves right at the expense of ourselves! Eckhart Tolle describes in A New Earth that the need to be right comes from our ego, and that we aren’t the same as our ego. The ego isn’t something we should take too seriously, it’s just something that pops up from time to time, craving your attention. If we identify with it, that where it starts to grow and we become unconscious again.